[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Reflections on Preaching the Gospel in Churches

by Matthew

I like to share things hear about the preaching class run by my pastor.

A couple of weeks ago I had to present a sermon outline that I am going to be preaching on 5th August at another church.

My sermon is a Gospel sermon on James 3:1-11. I am going to use the teaching there to show how our speech so often shows our sinful nature and thus our need for a Saviour in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The pastor was quite positive about the outline I presented. He described my approach as using James 3 as what the Puritans called a 'law text,' demonstrating the sinfulness of man. He emphasised that this was quite legitimate and that any passage of Scripture could be used to preach the Gospel.

The other men in the class were rather more uncomfortable with my approach. They seemed to think it would be better to apply the text as a message for believers, after all it was directed to Christians.

The fact is that the only text in Scripture that is written specifically for unbelievers is the Gospel of John. It is the only book of the Bible that is written to evangelize the lost. If one is only going to use evangelistic texts to preach Gospel sermons, one can only preach evangelistic sermons from the Gospel of John.

However, preaching is not simply giving exposition or exegesis of the Word of God, it is applying it in a relevant and powerful way. It is bringing up application, even if that is only indirectly implied in the text.

The Gospel can be found throughout the scripture. The Gospel may not be revealed in James chapter 3, but that passage reveals the sinfulness of man and his depraved nature. Thus, it shows man's need for that divine life that is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why I am going to preach the Gospel from that text.

Some people question the necessity of preaching the Gospel in churches. They argue we should do our evangelism outside of church, which we certainly should. So often the Gospel is preached in congregations of just a few faithful and godly believers.

However, we must continue to preach the Gospel in churches. For one thing, we cannot always be sure that everyone in our church is a true believer. There may be many in the church who have never truly believed. The church I am preaching in is almost certainly Calvinist and almost certainly affected by Lordship Salvation. There maybe many there who are true believers, yet who have lost their assurance because of the legalism of Calvinism. They need to hear the simple gospel of grace.

And all believers need to be reminded of the Gospel and the message of our Lord's saving work. It is good to again and again hear that old, old story.

37 Comments:

  • "There maybe many there who are true believers, yet who have lost their assurance because of the legalism of Calvinism."

    While I do not call myself a 'Calvinist,' I do embrace the sovereignty of God in all things. In my own experience, I've found more freedom (and assurance) than ever before when I came to accept a more reformed theological stance. I've never found it to be legalist in the least - quite the opposite. And I've never encountered teaching that posits someone can lose his salvation. Seems to be one of the more prevalent misconceptions.

    But I agree with you, the gospel needs to be preached always!

    By Blogger Gayla, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 7:34:00 AM  

  • Amen Matthew. Well said.

    By Blogger Kc, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 7:37:00 AM  

  • If people can be part of a Church with being partakers of the new birth and not come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that Church is in a sad condition.

    The purpose of the Church gatherings are for exhortation, encouragement, and communion. To cater to the few unsaved really misses the mark and leaves many true believers lacking the real meat of the Word.

    We are commanded to go into all the world to preach the gospel, not into all the churches to preach the gospel.

    However, it could be that there are many churches over there that do not present a genuine gospel, therefore it would not hurt for an occasional reminder.

    By Blogger Jim, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 7:49:00 AM  

  • Jim

    "The purpose of the Church gatherings are for exhortation, encouragement, and communion. To cater to the few unsaved really misses the mark and leaves many true believers lacking the real meat of the Word."

    We need all those things.

    But we also need the Gospel. We need to be reminded of it. Any believers that come to us need to hear it.

    The Gospel is encouragment to us and in an indirect way, it may also be exhortation.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 7:52:00 AM  

  • Kc, thanks.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 7:52:00 AM  

  • Gayla,

    A lot of Calvinists do have assurance and God must be praised for that.

    However, it is a fact that many great Calvinists, such as J Gresham Machen, William Wilberforce and John Newton have struggled with assurance.

    The problem is that Calvinists teach that you are only truly a believer if you perservere. And we do not know whether or not we are going to perservere.

    Thus, under Calvinism, it is possible that a person's faith mya turn out to be only a false, intellectual faith.

    Hence, the problem with assurance.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 7:57:00 AM  

  • Matthew: The fact is that the only text in Scripture that is written specifically for unbelievers is the Gospel of John.

    On what basis can you categorically say that the Gospel accounts given by Matthew and Mark were not written specifically for unbelievers?

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 8:26:00 AM  

  • Matthew, I have always found you to be very gracious in your interactions with others, and I just wanted to acknowledge that and say thank you. :)

    I've not read these guys you mention. I haven't even read John Calvin - just a few quotes here and there - so I have no idea of their personal issues with assurance.

    In studying Scripture I rely on the Word of God, the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and bring understanding, and a good concordance/commentary. That's not to say that I don't read outside sources, I do. I try to be very careful in what I take in, and I always line it up in light of Scripture.

    The Bible speaks quite a bit to perseverance, and since it does, I need to pay close attention to to that. From what I glean in Scripture, perseverance marks the life of a believer.

    By Blogger Gayla, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 8:55:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    Always preach the Gospel!

    I never found a series of verses that did not relate in some way to our Savior and provided an entrance or way to preach the Gospel. The members of my church loved it!

    The Gospel saves unbelievers, encourages all believers and teaches believers how to share Christ with others. I never preached a sermon that I did not include the Gospel and ask unbelievers to simply trust Christ as Savior.

    Go for it!!

    In Christ eternally by God's Grace and my choice.

    ExP(Jack)

    By Anonymous ExPreacherMan, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 12:51:00 PM  

  • Matt,

    I think you ought to tailor your gospel presentation to your hearers. I think your idea for preaching the gospel using James 3 as a spring-board is great! Maybe you can send me the outline!

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 2:09:00 PM  

  • "The Gospel can be found throughout the scripture. The Gospel may not be revealed in James chapter 3, but that passage reveals the sinfulness of man and his depraved nature."

    True the gospel of John is the only book in the Bible that states it's purpose was evangelism (John 20:31). But as you say the Gospel can be found all through the scriptures. One does not have to go far from James 3 to find the core of the Gospel in James 1:17-18 Every good GIFT and every perfect GIFT is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He BROUGHT US FORTH by THE WORD OF TRUTH,that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

    Remember James first reminded these believers that it is a gift. Then James naturaly uses this fact as a spring board for what comes after,,,James 1:19 SO THEN,
    It's always good to remind Church people the bases for their walk first, the freeness of God's gift compels us to walk by faith. This keeps us out of ligalism,,,,,grace
    blessings,,,alvin

    By Anonymous alvin, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 6:19:00 PM  

  • God Bless you bro. Matthew in your endeavor to preach the Gospel to these people! I think that is awesome, & no doubt the Lord will honor His Word. The NT writers preached the Gospel using some OT Scriptures that may have seemed strange to the 1st hearers...at 1st! Hey, it just may be used of the Lord to get the people's attention & show them that no matter where you "slice" it, the Bible always "bleeds" Christ!

    By Blogger David Wyatt, at Wednesday, July 25, 2007 6:49:00 PM  

  • Goodnight, there is no purpose statement in the Synoptics.

    I think the key indication is the fact that the content of John (which is evangelistic) is completely different from the Synoptics.

    A person coming to the Synoptics and John cold would probably be under the impression that here were two completely different messages and two different ways of salvation.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 1:04:00 AM  

  • Gayla, thanks.

    We need to perservere.

    The New Testament gives us many warnings about the dangers of falling back.

    If perservereance is an automatic result of being regenerate, we are left with two possibilities for these warnings.

    Either

    1) They are irrelevant to us if we are certain that we are believers.

    2) We cannot be sure whether we are believers.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 1:06:00 AM  

  • David, Alvin and ExP, thanks for the encouragment.

    Antonio, I have never been to this church before, but it is likely they are Calvinists.

    They are likely to be believers, but there may be some false professors or unbelieving people attending.

    How I can tailor my sermon to such a group I am not sure.

    Perhaps the best approach when preaching the Gospel in church is to simply assume or pretend that nobody in the church is a believer and urge them to look to Christ.

    God Bless you all and thanks for all your encouragment, people.

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 1:10:00 AM  

  • Matthew,
    I am glad you posted about this. I am sure you are quite a blessing to all of those who get to see your thoughts and approaches develop in this way. God bless you in the preaching of that sermon. I really love the way you closed this post.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 4:04:00 AM  

  • Hi Matthew,

    If the absence of a purpose statement rules out the synoptic gospels as being evangelistic, then surely it rules out them out for whatever other purpose also? Are they not part of the word of God whereby the faith that saves comes from hearing? (Romans 10:17) They might not carry their own purpose statement as John does in 20:31, but they come under the general purpose statement in Romans 10:17

    Certainly when I read the various gospels for the first time, I wasn't under the impression that there were a number of different messages and ways of salvation. Certainly, in my legalistic thoughts that I could earn salvation, I misappropriated certain parts of Luke's gospel (which I studied while still unsaved for an O Level) but I could quite easily have done so coming to John 13-17 had that account of the gospel been the O Level study document back in 1978.

    Obviously there is a different emphasis in John's gospel as far as content is concerned, but to build the theory upon this that it alone is the only text in Scripture that is written specifically for unbelievers actually denigrates the rest of Scripture, especially the other gospel accounts. Which I am sure is not your intention.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 4:25:00 AM  

  • Goodnight,
    Denying that the synoptics are evangelistic hardly denigrates them.

    I am sure you agree that 2 Timothy is not written specifically for evangelism, but it hardly shows a lack of respect to acknowledge this.

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 5:00:00 AM  

  • Thanks, Rose.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 5:01:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    You have a point that 2 Timothy was hardly written for evangelistic purposes (although 1 Timothy 1:15 makes a wonderful gospel text) but there is abundant evidence within the epistle and from the Bible at large (i.e. the Book of Acts), that it was written to a young pastor. However there is no evidence from within or without Matthew and Mark that they are not to be taken as evangelistic writings. Again, I reiterate my point, if the absence of a distinctive purpose statement rules them out as evangelistic documents, then what purpose can we attribute to them and on what basis?

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 7:41:00 AM  

  • Goodnight

    John is written to show how persons can have eternal life and life in more abundance.

    It identifies the means of appropriating eteranal life as belief in Jesus Christ.

    If Matthew, Mark and Luke have such a purpose, we should expect them to have a similar message.

    In contrast, we in fact find that the Synoptics say very little about eternal life and they certainly say little about faith as a means of appropriating eternal life.

    They also say a good deal more about discipleship than John (while never identifiying discipleship as a means of receiving eternal life).

    They also say far more about the kingdom than John does.

    Hence, either the Bible provides two conflicting evangelistic messages or else the Synoptics are not written for the purpose of evangelism (which is not to say that they do not contain pages and pages of material that is highly useful in evangelism).

    "Again, I reiterate my point, if the absence of a distinctive purpose statement rules them out as evangelistic documents, then what purpose can we attribute to them and on what basis?"

    We do not need a purpose statement in a book to discern its purpose. We can make judgments about the purpose of a book by looking at and analysing its contents.

    For instance, the book of Job does not contain any statement as to its purpose, but it is clear from its content that it provides a narrative exploration of the issue of suffering in the world.

    Why were the synoptics written?

    Most simply they are in some sense biographies of our Lord. They provide information on the life of Christ that is not found anywhere else in the NT. If we only had John, Acts and the epistles, we would have many unanswered questions about the life of the Saviour.

    Each of the Synoptics has different emphases which may provide some clues as to the context of why they were written.

    Matthew for instance, has much to indicate that it is written for persons who are of a Jewish background.

    It is possible that Luke was written in order to set the context for a legal defence of the apostle Paul. Theophilus may be Paul's defence lawyer.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 8:16:00 AM  

  • Matthew: Maybe all 4 gospels were to be interpreted together as a whole - the way that we read every other book in the Bible from Genesis onward in the light of what we read elsewhere etc., i.e. as a unit. If there being no distinctive purpose statement leads you to suggest biographical detail, why can I not rightly believe that they are as much gospel orientated as John? After all, John gives us some biographical detail which the others leave out e.g. the Upper Room ministry where He addressed His disciples, and much of His post resurrection conversations, again with His own.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 8:57:00 AM  

  • Why just use John?

    Because John is written to show a person how they can obtain eternal life.

    Clearly the entire content of John is sufficent to show a person how to obtain that gift without further information or elaboration.

    If we need something else that is mentioned in another NT book but not in John, then clearly John is not sufficent to show us how to obtain eternal life.

    "After all, John gives us some biographical detail which the others leave out e.g. the Upper Room ministry where He addressed His disciples, and much of His post resurrection conversations, again with His own."

    True. John is not simply written to show us how to obtain eternal life, but also how to life in more abundance.

    John has relevant things to say to those who have been converted as well as those who have not yet believed.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 9:13:00 AM  

  • Matthew: Can I show a person how to be saved with (say) only the Epistle of Romans?

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 9:24:00 AM  

  • Yes. You could. You might need to quote rather more verses than you would if you were using the gospel of John.

    Perhaps you have forgotten that the point of this post is to argue that the whole of the Bible can be used in preaching the Gospel.

    However, why use a book that is intended for the edification of Christians when you could use the book that God has specifically given to show a person how they can receive eternal life?

    Romans explains how we have received eternal life and the consequences for our living, while John is written to show how to obtain it and how to know it in more abundance.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 9:47:00 AM  

  • Surely Romans 10:13 is sufficient for these purposes? Why does it need more than any verse out of John's Gospel? Or, are (and if so, why) John's verses stand alone?

    BTW, I appreciate your time in answering these questions. You're very patient!

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 9:58:00 AM  

  • Romans 10:13
    'For whoseover shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'

    This verse is eschatological. It deals with the last days in which many will die physically through God's judgment.

    It does not deal with eternal life specifically.

    It is possible that a person may call on the name of the Lord believing that Jesus Christ has secured for them eternal life. In which case, they would be saved.

    However, there are a number of possible misconceptions they may have.

    1) That verse says nothing about eternal life. A person may simply see this as temporal deliverance from calamity (which is close to what it means in context).

    2) The verse does not make clear the need for looking to Christ. You would need to explain that it is Christ who provides eternal life.

    3) The verse says nothing about faith.

    If a person has faith in Christ for eteranal life and also calls on His name, they are saved.

    However, they might call without being certain that they will have eternal life.

    4) The verse does not make clear that it is a once and for all salvation that is offered. They may believe that they might lose this salvation after they have called on the name of the Lord.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 10:11:00 AM  

  • I must disagree with you, Matthew. Is Paul really arguing that we send missionaries with beautiful feet to the heathen to relieve them of their temporal troubles? I think not.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 12:13:00 PM  

  • Paul is certainly talking about more than temporal deliverance, however the verse he quotes does not refer in its context to the reception of eternal life.

    My point is that Paul is not explaining the offer of eternal life to unbelievers in that passage. Therefore, if we use it in evangelism, we will have to give lots of explanations and clarifications in order to be sure that the hearer comes to faith in Christ.

    There are many passages in John which explain the offer of eternal life with complete and unambigous clarity.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 12:20:00 PM  

  • Matthew, Why do you insist on explaining every thing through the lens of eternal life? I would tend to explain eternal life through the lens of salvation. After all, the sole giver of eternal life is Jesus and Jesus means Saviour. If we are not saved, then we are not in possesion of eternal life, but stil rather in that state of codemnation.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 1:30:00 PM  

  • Eternal life is the first part of salvation.

    By appropriating eternal life, the other elements of salvation are received.

    Until a person has life, she is dead. She needs spiritual life, and that is found in the gift of eternal life in Christ.

    Salvation is a much broader thing, which includes sanctification, deliverance from the trials of this world, glorification, rewards and inheritance of the kingdom.

    Every Blesding in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 1:33:00 PM  

  • Goodnight,

    do a study on those who "call upon" the name of the Lord and verses of the like.

    Calling on the name of the Lord is a Christian activity. It is an activity of one who already has a simple relationship to God.

    The word "call" is the same word that is also translated "appeal". It is an appeal to the Lord for temporal help.

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 1:37:00 PM  

  • It seems to me that if you want to make Romans 10:13 a salvation from hell passage, you would need to connect at least verse 14 to it. Calling on the Name of the Lord, bro. Antonio has correctly, in my view, pointed this activity out as the activity that a believer would be privileged to have. But if we call on Christ for salvation from hell, then it does no good unless we believe in Him as Savior 1st, which verse 14 points out. Just my 2.887 cents worth (taking into account inflation).

    By Blogger David Wyatt, at Thursday, July 26, 2007 7:22:00 PM  

  • Matthew and friends:

    Do you think when the Philippian jailer in Acts 16 asked what he was to be saved, that all he had in mind was salvation from temporal destruction e.g. suicide? If so, what is the evidence that he was ever saved in the eternal sense of the word? Or does the eternal sense of the word "saved" exist, and if so, where and how can we tell the difference?

    Or the poor publican in the parable which was directed to them who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. When that man cried out for mercy, he went down to his home justified. I doubt if you are willing to reduce the righteousness in this parable and the subsequent justification of the publican (especially when pitched against the Pharisee) as some temporal, earthly thing?

    In Romans 10, the issue is not (as implied) as to whether calling upon the name of the Lord requires faith. Obviously it does, but the issue is whether the one calling desires salvation from an earthly affliction or whether he is calling for a spiritual deliverance. I do not limit God's salvation merely to salvation from the penalty of sin but I hold that it takes it also salvation from the power of sin and also (ultimately) one day from the very presence of sin in Heaven. In other words, it embraces justification, sanctification and glorification.

    If (and it seems this way to me) it takes the word "life" for you to elevate the matters to the spiritual realm (as opposed to the temporal) then why can we not argue that the "life" sought for is also a temporal affair? Without imposing a 20th Century put down on the Scriptures, yet we hear people say, "Go and get a life" and they are not talking about God either.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Friday, July 27, 2007 1:19:00 AM  

  • "Do you think when the Philippian jailer in Acts 16 asked what he was to be saved, that all he had in mind was salvation from temporal destruction e.g. suicide? If so, what is the evidence that he was ever saved in the eternal sense of the word? Or does the eternal sense of the word "saved" exist, and if so, where and how can we tell the difference?"

    We are not told everything that was said to this man.

    I am quite sure that the offer of eternal life was explained to him very clearly.

    Acts is not written with the purpose of showing a person how to obtain eternal life. It is a book of history, with an epmphasis on the work, first of the Jerusalem church, then the apostle Paul.

    The meaning of the word 'salvation' must be ascertained by its context, just like any other Biblical word.

    For your homework, you might want to count all the different meanings of the word 'spirit' in the Bible. There are quite a few.

    Simply because a word has a specigfic meaning in one passage does not mean that it means the same thing in another.

    "Or the poor publican in the parable which was directed to them who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. When that man cried out for mercy, he went down to his home justified. I doubt if you are willing to reduce the righteousness in this parable and the subsequent justification of the publican (especially when pitched against the Pharisee) as some temporal, earthly thing?"

    This passage has nothing to do with Paul's doctrine of justification.

    This concerns rigtheous living and the rule of life that God had given the Israelites to live by.

    The publican, in his repentance was faithful to the law, his rule of righteous living or sanctification, while the Pharisee was not.

    To treat this as a passage about redemption from the eternal consequences of sin is to ignore the differences between the dispensation of law and the dispensation of grace.

    But I doubt you are a Dispensationalist, so you will probably not buy that.

    "If (and it seems this way to me) it takes the word "life" for you to elevate the matters to the spiritual realm (as opposed to the temporal) then why can we not argue that the "life" sought for is also a temporal affair? Without imposing a 20th Century put down on the Scriptures, yet we hear people say, "Go and get a life" and they are not talking about God either."

    Life has both temporal and physical aspects, as well as spiritual.

    A person may have eternal life, but they may not in a temporal sense be enjoying life in abundance and God's blessing. Sucha person needs to realise their sanctification in Christ, tnhat they may life in its fulness.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, July 27, 2007 4:54:00 AM  

  • Thanks for your views Matthew. I think the Dispensational reason which you rightly identify as a non starter for me prevents us a nodding of the head in agreement. I doubt if the Calvinistic church you are preaching in would agree either (?)

    I wonder if Rose or any other the other Dispensationalists in the circle (purely as a matter of interest)would run with your interpretation, especially on the Publican in the temple. It is times like these that I wish I had access to Harry Ironside or some of the other Dispensationalists. I have Darby on a CD somewhere. I'll get a wee peek at his comments later.

    Thanks again for your patience.

    God bless you too!

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at Friday, July 27, 2007 5:27:00 AM  

  • Goodnight,
    I doubt it too, so I am not preaching that text.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, July 27, 2007 5:29:00 AM  

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